Monday, April 16, 2007

Sadr Ministers . . . Quit? & This Weakens Maliki?

The New York Times partially reports the news from Iraq today that the six ministers of Moqtada al Sadr's party - whom the NYT notes "were seen by Iraqi and American officials as corrupt and incompetent," withdrew from the government at the direction of Sadr. Among the Sadr ministries were Agriculture, Civil Society and Provincial Affairs, Tourism and Antiquities, Transportation, and, most infamously, Health.

The Health Ministry, run by Ali al-Shammari, is considered by many Iraqi and American officials to be one of the country’s most underhanded, shadowy government institutions.

Its officials are suspected of pocketing enormous amounts of government money, and Sunni Arabs have been afraid to visit major hospitals in the capital and the Baghdad morgue because of the presence of Mahdi militiamen on the grounds.
According to both the New York Times and Sadr, the ministers withdrew from the government in protest because "the Iraqi government had refused to set a timetable for pulling American troops out of the country."

Mr. Sadr said he was motivated by Iraqi nationalism, asserting that his action was intended to give the government a chance to appoint new ministers who would not be beholden to any political party or have sectarian agendas.
Would someone please tell the NYT that Maliki announced weeks ago that he intended to replace all six of these Sadrist ministers. In communications that I had about ten days ago with Mohammed at Iraq the Model, they told me that Maliki had already requested that other parties provide him with nominations for all of the Sadr-held ministries and that Maliki has only been waiting for this to be completed before formally removing the ministers. The Sadr Ministers quiting their posts at this point is nothing more then an attempt to salvage some propoganda from the situation. The NYT calling this part of a "nationalist message by Sadr is in fact promoting the propoganda, in this case for the benefit of its U.S. readership.

At any rate, this is one more positive step for the government. Also, it does not change the power strutcture in the Iraqi government. Sadr, trying desperately to maintain influence in Iraq in the face of tremendously diminished public support and a fracturing of his militia, has not removed any of the 30 members in his bloc of legislators in the Iraqi Parliament. They are Sadr's last vestiges of power in Iraq, and he is not about to lose them, even if Maliki no longer dances to the Iranian tune that Sadr sings.

Update: Sec of Defense Gates states the obvious - this is good news for the Iraqi government.

H/T to Dinah Lord for the wonderful photo of Moqtada, presumably taken before his last appointment for a good dental cleaning.

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